The property tax levy School District 304 Board of Education members approved Monday will cost the owner of a $288,000 house a maximum of $280 extra in property taxes next spring, Assistant Superintendent Donna Oberg told the board.
The levy plan will capture the most new property tax revenue allowed by the tax cap law, then apply excess funds to the district’s bond debts, which will lower the amount by which the debt service levy will increase, Oberg explained. The plan produced the lowest anticipated tax hike of board members considered, she noted.
“This option is the best use of our funds for us,” Oberg said. “I think our most sound financial option is to keep the fund balance at $15 million and abate the excess to the debt service levy.”
Other options the board discussed include:
- Levying the full consumer price index increase without abating the debt service levy, which would have cost the average homeowner $415 extra in property taxes;
- Levying the full CPI and abating the education fund levy, which would have raised the average tax bill by $322;
- Keeping the levy at the 2010 level and using reserve funds to abate the education fund levy, which would have raised taxes by an average $342; and
- Levying the full CPI, then using excess tax revenue and $10 million in reserve funds to abate taxes. That would have raised the average tax bill by $323, but would have cut the education fund reserve to about $5 million.
“Not only would that add to our debt service, but it would lower reserves to 17 percent and run the risk of lowering our Standard & Poors bond rating,” Oberg noted.
While most board members praised the levy plan, Mark Grosso said it still leads to too high a tax increase.
“I guess the problem I have is that this is our fourth year in a recession, and our taxpayers aren’t getting any relief. We keep increasing the levy or adding additional taxes,” he asserted. “We have to reduce expenses hand in hand with tax increases.”
Grosso cast the only no vote on the levy.
Resident Bob McQuillan also said the district is not doing enough to lower taxes or outstanding debt.
“Come up with three solutions for debt repayment and let the community decide the best way to pay it,” he suggested. “Have four public forums like you did for the referendums, then let the community vote electronically. You have lost the trust of many in community, and you need to it back with complete transparency.”